After watching the league-leading Sounders dismantle previously undefeated Real Salt Lake, in a 4-0 rout, it might be tempting to hit the caps-lock key and make exclamations like this:
HOLY WOW YOU GUYS WHAT AN ASS-KICKING THE %#@&!#$ SOUNDERS ARE WINNING THE SUPPORTERS SHIELD AND MLS CUP THIS YEAR THERE’S NO WAY WE’RE GETTING OUR COMEUPPANCE!!1!
But with no Clint Dempsey, Djimi Traore or DeAndre Yedlin on the Seattle side, and Real Salt Lake without Álvaro Saborío, Kyle Beckerman and João Plata, injuries and the World Cup sendoff series made this match tough to figure, at least in terms of measuring how the MLS leaders truly stack up against one another.
The absence of Dempsey was noticeable in the first half, as the Sounders didn’t look like the most creative bunch. One moment of excitement: A penalty earned by Lamar Neagle in the 42nd minute, after getting launched into the air chasing down a loose ball in the box. For the second straight week, Gonzalo Pineda knocked it home for a 1-0 lead.
While RSL didn’t get a shot on goal until the 72nd minute, the Sounders romped through the second half.
• Marco Pappa curled in a sexy free kick, his first goal as a Sounder, to make it 2-0. And yes, I did just describe a kicked soccer ball as “sexy.” That’s an accurate assessment.
• Lamar Neagle continued to make himself indispensable, assisting on Chad Barrett’s second goal in as many weeks. 3-0.
• The final score came from Obafemi Martins, who tapped in a cross from Kenny Cooper in stoppage time. Wouldn’t be fair if Oba didn’t net one. 4-0.
Beautiful, sunny day at CenturyLink. Beautiful result, which has the Sounders sitting at 29 points and well in the clear, at least for now, of RSL, New England and, well, everybody in the hunt for the Shield.
So what’d we learn? Two things, I think:
This game was a testament to the Sounders’ depth, at least in the midfield and up front. How many teams could lose Dempsey and still leave Cooper sitting on the bench? This team might be Adrian Hanauer’s most balanced group, which will be important as the Open Cup gears up later this month.
It also said a lot about the spirit of these players. Yeah, it sounds fuzzy and isn’t exactly Moneyball stat-crunching, but there’s something refreshing different about the Sounders this year. They play with joy. They smile. They cheer each other on. As a fan, that’s fun to watch. It feels good to cheer for a bunch of players you genuinely would like to have a beer or 10 with.
If they can play like this without two of their best, so much the better.